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Grizzly attacks man in Pablo

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A grizzly bear attack around 10:30 Friday morning in Pablo sent a man to the hospital.

“The male subject that was attacked was a 42-year-old man from Polson. He was in a field behind Salish Kootenai College near Clairmont Road collecting water samples for a project for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. He had squatted down to collect the sample, looked up and saw the two cubs nearby. He then stood up and the sow bear charged him to protect the cubs,” a press release from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said. 

The man was transported to St. Luke Community Hospital in Ronan and then transferred to Kalispell Regional Medical Center by ambulance.  

“I don’t know what the severity of those injuries are, but it sounds like he has been talking to officers. Again, I don’t know how life-threatening the injuries are at this point,” Lake County Undersheriff Dan Yonkin said Friday. “We’ve contacted tribal and state fish and game agencies.”

CSKT Wildlife Biologist Stacy Courville reported finding the site of the surprise encounter. The student was hiking alone in a brushy area along Mud Creek, Courville said, when the bear charged and attacked the student. The bear has left the area. Courville, in consultation with the grizzly bear recovery coordinator, has evaluated the situation and will continue to monitor the area, according to a news release from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

CSKT Natural Resources Department head Rich Janssen reminds hikers, “The Flathead Indian Reservation is bear country and is home to both black and grizzly bears. Follow basic rules for safe hiking in bear country, particularly on the west slope of the Mission Mountains.” 

According to the CSKT, one of the best ways to ensure safety is to travel in a group of three or more people and make noise. Make loud noise especially when in dense brush or near running water, where surprise encounters are likely to take place. Proper use of bear spray has proven to be the best effective method for fending off threatening and attacking bears, and for preventing injury to the person and animal involved. Anyone recreating in bear country is highly encouraged to carry bear spray.  The bear spray should be readily accessible and the user should have knowledge on how to use it.

Though grizzly bear encounters are rare — the last reported in the area was in the early 1990s — hikers are reminded that bears are emerging from their dens and are active so be prepared for wildlife encounters.   

Residents of the Pablo area should report any bear sightings or signs of bear activity to Tribal Conservation Officers at (406) 675-4700 as soon as possible.

LCSO spokesperson Karen Sargeant said the attack is still considered unprovoked. 

“(The bears are) coming out of hibernation,” she said. “It’s a sow with two cubs, so she’s hungry and we live in grizzly territory.”

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